X-Fac­tor –

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS: ANNA BECK PHOTO: ROBERT CONROY

Re­gret is a strong feel­ing. It’s re­lat­able, wide­spread, and pretty use­less; after all no one has the tools to change the past. But we can use our in­sight to change our ap­proach in the fu­ture. That be­ing said, when think­ing of years gone by, it’s hard to know how we would act and think if we were be­stowed with the knowl­edge and in­sight gained through life, as a young whip­per­snap­per.

Surely the 1980s perm would not be a thing. Ditto high neon-coloured pants, stonewashed jeans with jog­gers, and di­vulging to Jenny - your bestie James’ mum - how much you loved her on a beach in 1988 (Jenny stated the feel­ings weren’t mu­tual and then you weren’t al­lowed at James’ house any more).

This is also quite rel­e­vant to cy­cling. I asked a few veter­ans in the moun­tain bike scene (not nec­es­sar­ily in age!) what they thought was the most useful ad­vice they would give them­selves when they started cy­cling, from the view­point of what they know now.

Jo Row­ell, masters cross-coun­try moun­tain biker and pro­fes­sion­ally cheery ath­lete, said that go­ing back to ba­sics is a great way to gain con­fi­dence in a safe en­vi­ron­ment. “Prac­tice the sim­ple things, like track stands for bal­ance,” she says, since these are ba­sic skills that trans­fer across to the trail. For in­creas­ing con­fi­dence to the next level Jo reck­ons that a good teacher or coach is cru­cial. “Moun­tain bike skills are dif­fer­ent to road skills, and a good teacher can help you to at­tain skills, prac­tice, then build your con­fi­dence,” she ex­plains.

“It’s also im­por­tant to lis­ten to your body and quit rid­ing be­fore you get too tired and have a stack! And in terms of pro­gres­sion, hav­ing a goal like completing an event or race is a good way to test your­self rid­ing dif­fer­ent types of trails.”

An­gela, an elite grav­ity racer, has some other sage ad­vice for the as­pir­ing shred­der. “Ride with peo­ple who are pa­tient so you don’t feel pres­sured into keep­ing up with them or do­ing stuff you’re not com­fort­able with,” she ex­plains. Hit­ting scary things too early can turn a ride from fun to ter­ri­fy­ing in a few min­utes, and can put rid­ers off the sport per­ma­nently! She adds: “If you do ride by your­self, set some small goals and chal­lenges for each ride, and al­ways keep it fun.”

An­gela also reck­ons the best way to get into the sport is to go to the top div­ing plat­form and jump right in. “When buy­ing your first bike, buy the best you can af­ford. Don’t buy the “Big W Spe­cial” to see if you like it - that is just go­ing to make the learn­ing process that much harder!”

The nicest elite fe­male XC racer on the cir­cuit, El­iza Kwan, also weighs in. “From an XC rac­ing per­spec­tive, get a coach you will work well with, and keep look­ing un­til you find that per­son. For me that’s made a big dif­fer­ence in get­ting fit­ter and stronger but also en­joy­ing rid­ing.”

“My coach has been re­ally good at giv­ing good ad­vice to back off when I have needed it and also pushed me in a healthy way too when I have needed it,” she says. “From a gen­eral rid­ing per­spec­tive, stop wish­ing you had started ear­lier! You have no con­trol over the past and you are here en­joy­ing it now, so just roll with that.”

My own ad­vice? Be kind to your­self. If you can’t do some­thing, it’s not for­ever; it may just be that you can’t do it to­day. Both phys­i­cal and skill de­vel­op­ment vary be­tween rid­ers in terms of time for pro­gres­sion, and of­ten those who take longer to reach peak form can sus­tain a high level in the sport for an ex­tended pe­riod.

While time travel is purely sci­ence fic­tion, we can learn from those who have come be­fore us in or­der to be the best we can be. What ad­vice would you give your­self when you started, with the wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence you have gained to this point?

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